I have gotten into the habit of saving up shows I want to watch for the purposes of a good binge. I saved up half the third season of Orphan Black before diving in. Hannibal was already canceled before I even took my first nibble of what is (for) now the final season. Sunday nights at 9pm has been the only non-sports appointment television running right from Game of Thrones and into True Detective. Having a week to ruminate about the episode, lament the lack of water coolers in your life, and really think about what you just watched is a completely different experience than letting episode after episode crash over you without time to breathe. (I just started watching Mr. Robot on USA Network and I think I am going to try sticking with the weekly schedule as it seems to have lots of theorizing that can be done between episodes.)
Having that time to think about last week’s Night Finds You left me in a week-long version of Eddie Izzard’s wonderful bit about Engelbert Humperdinck. He tells the audience that he just learned that the singer had died. The audience murmurs a little uncomfortably and Izzard lets them off the hook telling them that he is not dead. He then proceeds to vacillate back and forth, including a good 30 seconds of hysterical head shaking, nodding, and eye rolling as he flips back and forth on the fate of the erstwhile Arnold George Dorsey.
My first instinct after the end of last week’s episode was that Detective Ray Velcoro could not possibly be dead due to the billing Colin Farrell has received for the show. Second reaction was a full frontal flashback to the radical pelvectomy that Casper received from a close range shotgun blast. The show has used flashbacks of Velcoro as a young officer already and they utilized multiple timelines extensively in season one. It seemed perfectly reasonable that he could be dead but still be featured prominently for the next six episodes. Multiple people I spoke with — including a good friend who works at HBO — seemed to think his character might actually have been killed which, of course, forced me into the opposite position because I am a contrary jerk. Back and forth until last night when we would finally find out…
I wrote that last week’s episode felt like an ode to James Ellroy. This one started out positively Lynchian with a blue-lit lounge performer — Jake La Botz credited as Conway Twitty — singing Twitty’s cover of Bette Middler’s The Rose. Sitting in a booth is Velcoro but the dream-like setting of the night club makes it seem like he is dying, in a coma, or —
OH MY GOD IS THAT FRED FUCKING WARD!?!
Regardless of how anything else resolves itself this season I am in for the long haul if there is the promise of more Fred Ward. If you are not familiar with his work you should immediately stop what you are doing and watch Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (spoilers; the adventure also ends there as well), Tremors, and — most importantly — Miami Blues, one of the greatest dark noir comedies ever made, based on the book by the magnificent Charles Willeford.
I will resist the urge to shift topics to the work of Willeford — possibly saving it for a future Fetchland piece — and get back to the booth where we find that Ward is playing retired cop Eddie Velcoro, Ray’s dad. It is not obvious at first as Ray looks down at his bruised knuckles while Eddie tells him that he has his father’s hands.
“My father made me nervous,” says Ray.
“Maybe you were already nervous. Maybe you lacked grit.”
Eddie sneers in the way only a disapproving TV dad can muster talking about Ray getting shot to pieces. Ray takes in the oddity of the situation and the surroundings. “Where is this?”
“I don’t know… you’re here first,” answers his father as Ray looks down at his own bloody chest. The live performance fades into a more hollow rendition squeaking out of a clock radio. The clock reveals that is 7am and Ray is laying on the floor of Casper’s fuckpad where the man in the bird mask left him last week. There is still a chance he could be dead but after a moment of stillness he gasps to consciousness and rips open his shirt in the cop-show classic “I was wearing a vest” maneuver. He was not but his torso is pocked with shot and largely intact.
He reveals to a livid Bezzerides that the shotgun blast were “just” riot shells, the type cops use, and he only suffered a couple of broken ribs. Bezzerides heads into the crime scene and gets into a jurisdictional shoving match with Lieutenant Kevin Buress (played by James Frain, who has fallen into a dead last in the hide-my-accent power rankings).
Next up is the Semyons who are trying to get pregnant via IVF. Jordan is trying to entice Frank into a cup via her mouth but he pushes her away and pulls up his trousers. He insists “that” has never happened to him before. Stress can affect a man’s performance and he acknowledges plenty of it in his life at the moment.
“There is no part of my life not filled with live-or-die importance. I take a shit and there is gun to my head saying ‘make it a good one, don’t fuck up’.”
Frank pushes away from Jordan’s attempts at intimacy and they go down a well-worn road of blame with Frank extolling the virtues of his motility, implying that the fertility issues must originate with her. Jordan is quick to point out that his equipment is pointing in the wrong direction for that to even matter and flings the plastic cup at him before storming off.
“Suck your own dick!”
Bezzerides and Woodrugh get some alone time and she scores the first smile I think we have seen out of Woodrugh through the first three episodes. She is sending him out to canvas local prostitutes and wants to know something about his celebrity run-in from the first episode. He bristles immediately and makes it clear he has no intention of answering any questions about whether or not he did it. Bezzerides was actually just going to ask him if his new found notoriety from the appearance on the TMZ homepage was going to interfere with his ability to do his job. In fact she thinks he should sue to the would-be Lohan when all of this is done. There is a moment of connection between them and Woodrugh is even able to tease her about her ever-present e-cigarette. It was the first time Kitsch gets to anything but glower from the back of his closet and it was a good moment to see him in some other light than just his struggles with his sexual identity.
Velcoro confronts Semyon about the shooting, and who else knew about Casper’s house, over a pint glass of water in the same booth from the opening scene. No booze for Velcoro who wants to hold onto his anger and not dull it with alcohol. Semyon is not comfortable with the new-found bark of his Vinci lapdog.
“There’s a certain stridency at work here. I am going to chalk it up to you getting blasted.”
“I’m feeling a little apoplectic myself.”
Woodrugh and Bezzerides are greeted at the door of Mayor Chessani’s Bel Air mansion by someone they mistake for his daughter Betty but who turns out to be her stepmother Veronica. She is wearing a rumpled party dress, has tousled hair and makeup that is beyond a smokey eye — let’s call it a smoggy eye. The two cops push past her into the house and begin asking questions about Casper while she takes a hit from what she assures them is a medical marijuana balloon bag — what is it with this show and vaporizers?
While Veronica purrs at Woodrugh, Bezzerides begins to explore the house. She sees pictures of the mayor with various high profile politicians alongside a life-sized cardboard cutout of his wife in a bikini. She is rummaging around his desk when she hears a noise and rushes towards the sound. Upstairs she finds Betty Chessani sitting quietly in a room. When asked if everything is OK Betty just closes the door on her. Betty is played by Emily Rios who is a veteran of many hour long dramas — most notably Breaking Bad and The Bridge — and I trust/hope that she will get more/anything to do in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile a naked woman plunges into the pool just outside the terrace doors where the mayor’s wife and Woodrugh have been talking. We see that she has been tossed from a balcony by Tony Chessani, the mayor’s son whom he was lamenting about last episode. Bezzerides confronts Tony who is putting on a gang accent that she sees through immediately. Tony confesses that it is a put on and that his job as an “event organizer” calls for him to play different roles. He throws them out with the threat of his father’s lawyers and increasingly bad accents.
“How many times do you expect to be paid for the same thing?” pleads Bart Sallis. a contractor who bought his business from Frank, who now wants 25% every month from Bart despite that not being part of the original deal.
“Things change. They changed for me they can change for you.”
Frank is back to his transplanted Chicago mobster roots. He makes it more palatable by explaining he can keep the teamsters and electrical workers from walking off the job. He can keep the note from being called in on the loan underwriting the project. To make sure he being ultra clear he also points out that he knows where the family lives and where the kids go to school. Bart acquiesces but only if he can get some concessions on the electric crews and receive weekend deliveries.
Bezzerides reports back to her overseers on the contents of Casper’s safe deposit box which included articles of incorporation and a stash of blue diamonds. Her superiors are much more interested in hearing about Velcoro and whether or not he could have staged his own shooting. The state wants to prosecute a crooked Vinci cop and they have their sights set on Velcoro. She should do whatever it takes to get them leverage on him.
“He’s a man for Christ’s sake.”
“Yeah, so what?”
“I am not saying fuck him but maybe make him think you might fuck him.”
The language in Vinci is even coarser than it is at the State Attorney’s office where the Mayor will only refer to Bezzerides as “that cunt” after she barged in on his wife and kids. Woodrugh appears to be spared his wrath but the Mayor will not be happy until Bezzerides is running a yogurt stand instead of investigations. Velcoro tries to extract himself from the investigation but he can’t get away. The mayor, the police chief, and his lieutenant all want him to wrap up the hooker angle on the Casper murder ahead of the State investigation into their department. He should not worry about any land deals. Nobody is going down over any land deals.
“You could just drink out of the bottle.”
We get bonus Fred Ward scenes with the old man struggling to get a shot glass to his lips without spilling the contents while his son drops off a bag of weed. Ray notices an empty spot on the bookshelf where his father’s lucite encased badge is supposed to be. He fishes it out of the garbage despite Eddie protests that there is no PD anymore. Ray grills his dad about the Vinci brass who used to be on the job with him in LA before they left to set up shop after the riots and OJ trials.
Things are not going well for Semyon whose deal with Osip is slipping away. Frank is tired of playing nice and tells him not to let the door hit him in the ass on the way out. As he glowers out at his wife sitting alone on the casino floor he wonders if perhaps Osip had some hand in Casper’s death. To make matters worse for Semyon not all his men are accounted for and one of them — Stan — later turns up murdered. Semyon needs an outlet for all his frustration and calls for a meeting of all the usual suspects at Santos’ club.
Woodrugh is hanging with one of his Blackrock buddies drinking beer, watching motocross and talking about letting sleeping dogs lie. Except that maybe his buddy doesn’t want to deny the past. He begins to reminisce about time they spent together in a village separated from their unit. Woodrugh gets visibly upset and does not want to talk about it. He throws his buddy down to the ground to end to the discussion while someone who looks an awful lot like Dixon takes surveillance photos of them from afar.
Back at investigation HQ Velcoro lumbers in despite his best efforts to get kicked off the task force. Pictures of a Cadillac license plate the night of the murder lead them to a film set that Casper was a producer on in exchange for California tax credits. Velcoro befriends a set photographer who relates a story about Casper and the director attending a “wall to wall pussy” party.
Woodrugh is working the local prostitute angle to no avail when he meets a male hustler who recognizes Casper’s photo from the club Lux Infinitum, Santos’ place. Despite *ahem* only wanting the tip, Woodrugh realizes he will need more from the informant to get anything resembling a lead at the club.
“They probably wouldn’t even let you in. This angsty cop drama you are rolling.”
Bezzerides and Velcoro are at his house when his ex-wife and her current husband (sitting in the car) shows up. She tips him off that State investigators called on her to ask about extra cash or perhaps about the death of the man who attacked her. She offers him $10,000 in cash to walk away from his custodial claims on Chad but he tells her to put the envelope away. Bezzerides was listening from just inside the door. She steps back into the apartment before he can see that she was spying on him. She asks if everything is okay and seems to be developing some sympathy for him — earlier in the episode she appraised him as a burnout to her superiors.
At Lux Infinitum Woodrugh and Semyon bump into each other and have a stare-off with Woodrugh coming up short. He requires multiple double scotches to talk to another hustler who has performed with a girls for Casper. The thought that this man could have sex with a woman is a source of discomfort for him. And his response does little to assuage Woodrugh who needed a little blue bill to hook up with butterfly girl in the first episode.
“You do girls?”
“In a pinch…with the right medication.”
It turns out the girl the hustler hooked up with is Tasha — the same girl that Santos introduced to Semyon and led to Casper’s hideaway. She works expensive private parties but has not been around in a while.
While Woodrugh continued his investigation upstairs Semyon was downstairs with Santos and the assorted criminals who run woman in the local clubs. He hands out pictures of Casper and demands that he is told anything that any of them hear about him. Santos crumbles the photo and sneers that Semyon “ain’t that thing no more…what you used to was.” He declares the meeting over but Semyon grabs him by the lower lip. Santos is eager to fight and begins to take off his jewelry.
“You can leave your rings on. It won’t matter to me.”
Santos lands a few shots but Semyon lays him out and, with one hand holding him down by the neck, proceeds to remove his gold grill with a pair of needle nosed pliers.
Bezzerides and Velcoro investigation from the movie set has led them to the front door of someone with access to the caddy who has quit the production. Before they can ask anything significant they hear a crash and the whoosh of flames. The Cadillac they were searching for is around the corner and has just been torched. They pursue a masked person fleeing from the scene across a homeless encampment and onto the freeway where Velcoro dives to save Bezzerides from an oncoming truck. The arsonist escapes in the aftermath while Velcoro — who had multiple broken ribs from the shooting — groans on the ground. Bezzerides thanks him for saving her life but when he asks what the state police have on him — if she wants to really thank him — she says she knows nothing.
Frank returns home and Jordan is up waiting for him. She asks if he want to make up, to talk, as he fixes a drink at the bar and dumps a fistful of gold teeth in the trash.